Those of you old enough to have worked regularly on Mac OS 9 remember the Mac OS 9 Location Manager. It was a way to make switching network configurations dead simple. The reason for this was that Mac OS 9 couldn't do multilink multihoming, so if you wanted to switch your connection from wireless to Ethernet, you had to manually switch the active interface. Over time, you could tie a few things to that...start applications, set printers, etc.
With Mac OS X, the main reason for Location Manager died, but not the desire for the ability to say "I'm going somewhere else, do this." Actually, I rarely used Location Manager for changing network configs. I used it as a spiffy little application and configuration manager. There have been attempts to replicate Location Manager in Mac OS X throughout the years, but none ever did anything for me, until an acquaintance of mine, Phil Letourneau, part of Centrix, asked me to play with it.
I have to say, the folks at Centrix did it right. It has a nice UI, comes with a solid number of pre-built actions, and it lets me run AppleScripts, so I can have it do all sorts of neat things just by changing "location." I'm testing some internal stuff with it, but so far, it's the best location manager I've seen, and the first one I've wanted to use on Mac OS X since well, Mac OS X.
Yes, I know there's a few Apple applications and utilities. That's always a quandary, because I don't want to give Apple too much consideration, yet it would be equally wrong to not put in an Apple that I use regularly and like, just because it's an Apple product. So while I make sure that it really is something I use a lot, I'm not going to exclude something just because of who makes it.
With that, my number seven on the list is Apple Remote Desktop 3 from Apple. It is the tool I live by when I'm actively managing my Macs. Apple Remote Desktop has been a solid tool since it was called the Apple Network Assistant, but in version 3, Apple not only fixed many of the reporting issues that had plagued earlier versions, but they added in some rather solid new reports of particular use for SOX environments, and they added AppleScript support for the Apple Remote Desktop administration application itself.
A scriptable Apple Remote Desktop may not seem like much, but it has made my use of Apple Remote Desktop more efficient than any GUI improvement could have. Now, when I have to push out, say, a new version of Firefox, I don't have to fire up Apple Remote Desktop, select the workgroup I want to push it to, drag Firefox to that selection, tell Apple Remote Desktop what the destination is, and how to handle problems. Instead, I have a folder in my Dock called "Copy to all Macs' Applications folder." This has an AppleScript folder action attached to it that tells Apple Remote Desktop to "copy all items added to this folder to the /Applications folder on every machine in this computer list." Drag, drop, go do something else. I do the same for all kinds of stuff I do regularly in Apple Remote Desktop. Makes updating Microsoft Office 2004 really simple, although I have to do a bit more work due to the way Office updates. Either way, without AppleScript, Apple Remote Desktop was a solid tool. With AppleScript, Apple Remote Desktop is absolutely indispensable.
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